Army Fires Laser-Guided Lightning Bolts
The Army’s latest laser-weapon fires laser-guided lightning bolts…
The Army’s Research and Development facility at Picatinny Arsenal, are currently building the first laser-guided lightning weapon. The Laser-Induced Plasma Channel (LIPC) essentially fires lightning bolts down laser-guiding beams to destroy its target with devastating effects.
The weapon has the power to basically destroy anything it hits, and it can strike anything that conducts electricity better than the air or ground surrounding it.
Aside from vehicles, buildings and other structures, the LIPC lightning beam can also be used to destroy unexploded ordinance.
Image Credit: U.S. Army, 2012.
U.S. Army Fire Laser Guided Lightning Weapon
The weapon works using some basic principles of physics. The high intensity, short duration (around two-trillionths of a second) laser pulse uses the air like a lens – the surrounding air focuses the beam to keep the pulse strong tight rather than scattering as it travels. This carves an electromagnetic path through which the lightning bolt travels.
But the way lightning bolt is created is even physics at its best – as the beam gets cranked up it actually creates an electromagnetic field around itself that’s so strong it strips the electrons from the air molecules and this creates a channel of plasma that flows through the beam.
And as lightning always looks for the least path of resistance to the ground, the beam and resulting plasma can be fire horizontally until reaches the target where it then strikes in order to find its way to the ground.
The prototype in question is still not amazingly practical, as with all laser weaponry it requires lots of expensive hardware to create the high-intensity short-burst laser. Plus the traditional alternative, bullets, have a long shelf life, are extremely accurate and easy to transport, so a modern replacement must first fit all those criteria before it could become standard issue.
Nevertheless, there’s still many applications for such a weapon, regardless of its size. Let’s hope we see more of the laser lightning LIPC in the future.
- Army Demonstrates a Weapon That Shoots Laser-Guided Lightning Bolts. Popular Science, 06/28/2012.